Game, Set & Watch

The ‘Old Town’ of Dubrovnik is the original walled city, the heart of the maritime Republic of Ragusa, and though the city has long outgrown those walls and established a new port on the other side isthmus that joins the Lapad peninsula to the mainland.  Nevertheless the original buildings and layout have been largely preserved, and this, combined with the proximity of the botanical gardens and nature reserve on Lokrum (an island just a few hundred metres from the old port) have made it a superb location for film and TV work._PW_6764

_PW_6428In March this year the main street (The Stradun) was apparently taken over for the shooting of the next instalment in the Star Wars franchise to the delight of the Mayor, who sees the tax revenues of high spending film crews as a boost to maintaining the city, but the dismay of the tourists whose photographs were ruined by cables, floodlights and a rogue spaceship.

It’s a difficult conundrum.  After the physical and economic devastation of war in the early 90’s the opportunity to bring in additional revenue is very appealing, but such a small town can only accommodate so many people and if the hotels and restaurants a full of film crew then the tourist is squeezed out and may not return.  They may even be unable to enter the city at all; one lunchtime the flow of people through the narrow entrance at the Pile Gate became completely gridlocked.

Still its a nice problem to have.  Better be faced with trying to manage your popularity than having nothing to offer, and it’s a similar problem to that faced by their former rulers in Venice who must struggle with the choice between the revenue of the cruise ships and the damage they do to the very buildings that attract them.

And when the film is released, will those city walls be crammed with a new breed of visitor intent on walking in the footsteps of Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren?  If so they may be disappointed, for while the creamy coloured stone of the old town is certainly photogenic, it will be enhanced by physical and CGI “extensions” to the point where it is difficult to recognise.  Those already walking the town in search of sets from their favourite TV show are learning just how different reality can be, though it doesn’t stem the flow of fans from around the globe.  As my youngest daughter Holly put it “King’s Landing is the same in any language”.  Those who seek the Iron Throne will find it (with the word “replica” in small print) in a photo studio down a narrow alley.  The “original” is in a studio in Belfast where Star Wars also benefitted from the vast spaces that were once the shipyards that produced Titanic.   I mean the ship, not the film!

Sorry – just had to join in!

Spot the Difference?


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The Very Visible Lighthouse

View from the Black Beacon to Orfordness Light

A couple of years ago my daughter Holly and I attended an unusual screening at Tyneside Cinema in which a film director was premiering his latest (and only) film.

The evening was in three parts. Firstly the film was shown, though soundtrack and narration were performed live from a spot to the left of the screen, then a leather armchair was manoeuvred to centre stage for the director to answer questions. Finally he returned to his console, strapped on a small keyboard and performed a short set of his greatest hits.

Thomas Dolby, Boulder Colorado 2006
Thomas Dolby, Boulder Colorado 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The director/writer/performer was Thomas Dolby, and the film was The Invisible Lighthouse, a tale of the role that this landscape had played in his childhood, replete with war heroes, UFO’s, an undercover operation, and in particular the Orfordness Light which was being decommissioned due to the increasing risk of it being swept away like so much of that coastline had before. Whilst the building itself was being left to the forces of time and tide, the light and ancillary equipment was to be removed because of the toxic impact it might have on the environment. Orford Ness is a nature reserve._MG_2615

So here we are a couple of years later and that encroaching sea has yet to deal the fatal blow. The lighthouse is clearly visible from many directions, largely due to the otherwise unused land that surrounds it. There are reasons that so much of that land is unused and I will explore them in the next posting about the Ness but for now lets concentrate on the light.

Dolby’s tribute wasn’t the only expression of sadness at the passing of a local landmark (there has been a lighthouse here since 1792). An association was formed to look into ways to temporarily defend the structure from the sea until more detailed plans for its preservation could be agreed.

They needed to act swiftly as it was only expected to survive a further 6 or 7 years after decommissioning in 2013. An article in the Daily Telegraph in January 2013 pointed out that the tower was only 11 metres from the sea, and that four metres had been lost in the previous month alone.

18 months later and the building still stands.

So far so good.


Hang on to your hat!

Early in the film Unfaithful, Diane Lane‘s character does battle with gale force winds in New York City. Whilst this fictional storm is as nothing compared to the impact of Hurricane Sandy, it is enough to cause Miss Lane some problems with her dress (shame!) and ultimately blow her quite literally into falling for Olivier Martinez which is where the trouble begins as she’s married to Richard Gere!

High winds hit Sunderland today so I made for the town centre which was once notorious for its wind tunnel effect, to see what drama may ensue This was never going to provide a Diane Lane type wardrobe malfunction, after all “tracky bottoms” are de rigueur for many of the population, but I thought there might be the odd lost hat or two!

In the end I grabbed a few candids of frustration and desperation, including one guy who seemed to feel the need to hold onto his hair, though he didn’t look much like Wayne Rooney.

Eventually I met John who had the perfect solution to the conditions. His head covering was neither hair nor fabric, yet it was completely weatherproof. It was ink!

A Gentler Ministry of Truth

Cover of "Brazil"
Cover of Brazil

For just over 60 years after the end of the Second World War, there was a government department called the Central Office of Information (COI), a grey and bureaucratic title which does sound a little like something out of Orwell’s masterpiece, or Central Services, the overarching bureaucracy of Terry Gilliam‘s Brazil.  The COI’s function was to provide public information and it’s best remembered for the short Public Information Films that it produced.

The topics of these films ranged from learning to swim to the role of the coastguard, from being responsible with litter to using your seatbelts when driving.  A department to brainwash the public?  It does sound like it, and in many ways some of my generation’s attitudes were undoubtedly influenced by the films.  The grumpy old man in me wishes that there was still such a tool to remind those who regularly jump red lights or exhibit other anti-social behaviours.

The success of the films was down to the light hearted approach they took to their subject matter – often with cartoon characters whose catchphrases still ring in my ears decades later, such as today when I was walking into Darlington.

I had a package to collect from a part of town that I’m less familiar with, and with a couple of miles or so to walk I didn’t hang around to wait for portraiture subjects, preferring to rely on the luck of a chance encounter, and I did spot plenty of likely people in shops along the way if I’d only had time to stop. 

The rain clouds were building over the town so I hurried on, ignoring the signs of a recent atrocity in a back lane, when I was given a sign of better pickings ahead.

Clearly I was about to encounter a pale, long necked beauty for today’s portrait.

A few hundred yards later and I was just about at my destination when Dave came my way.  Now ok, he wasn’t quite the swan like model I’d anticipated, but at least he had the right coloured plumage!  Just got to him in time to as he was about to go and have it cut off.

Inevitably at the furthest point of my journey the rainclouds broke, which is when the public information film about Pelican crossings came to mind and I heard Deryck Guyler‘s voiceover:

Wish I’d brought me brolly!”